Jazz Appreciation Month comes to a close. This week we interview Edy Bronston of the California Jazz Foundation. Read on...
Entertainment Cruise Productions
Our Take: Jazz Appreciation Month
While resisting the trite comment that Jazz Appreciation Month should be every month, it is important for us to take one more lap around the block and continue our discussion of our “appreciation” of jazz. Real Jazz (SXM 67) is running some clips of interviews this month featuring top musicians talking about jazz. Branford Marsalis’ clip has stuck with me and mirrors my personal relationship with jazz.

The piece reflects Branford’s unabashed love of jazz and the recognition that there are other saxophonists who play differently from him and that they are more popular and have enjoyed more financial success. He says that he does not want to play like them and he knows that means that he will not be rewarded like them. Instead, he wants to play jazz… all kinds of jazz. If you have the chance to hear the clip yourself, do so, as the conviction in his voice cannot be captured by the written word, at least not by my writing.

Most of my friends do not listen to jazz. They do not know much about jazz, except that they are not interested in learning. They believe it to be the music of their parents or even grandparents. But, if you are reading this column, undoubtedly you do listen to jazz and you know a lot about it as well. So, who is right? Is there a higher ground here?

Of course, no one is right and no one is wrong and the only higher ground that can be found is for those who tolerate and accept the views of others. I know that this can be difficult. There are certain aspects of Country Music and Alternative Rock that makes me physically ill and depressed. I admit that the fervor of the fan base of those genres frightens me. Why can’t they sit quietly and listen to a tight piano-drum-bass trio making great music or enjoy the call and response of a trumpet and a saxophone as they drive home a particular tune?  

I have often felt that the quality of the music is inversely proportionate to the scale of the production. Good music does not need flashing lights, LED screens and choreography. Can you imagine John Coltrane sliding across the stage or Ella Fitzgerald coming down from the balcony on a trapeze? Nope. They stood in place and shared their music and their passion with the audience. How close am I getting to declaring ownership of the higher ground? I hope not.

Yet, as Jazz Appreciation Month ends, all I can say is that jazz is the music of my life, the sounds and tunes that move me, entertain me and challenge my senses. We may not have the “higher ground,” but we certainly have a better view than most.

Our Take is written by Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of Entertainment Cruise Productions. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at michael@ecpcruises.com.
The Weekender Interview Series: The Jazz Cruise
Starting this week, The Weekender will feature interviews with various members of The Jazz Cruise Hall of Fame, those folks whose contribution to The Jazz Cruise has made that cruise The Greatest (Straight-Ahead) Jazz Festival at Sea. Our first guest is Edy Bronston, the founder and president of California Jazz Foundation. Edy has sailed on The Jazz Cruise for many years and her contribution to the needs of jazz musicians earned her induction into The Jazz Cruise Hall of Fame in 2017.
You are a very successful lawyer and you were practicing law before you became interested in helping jazz musicians. Can you tell us about your law practice?

I was a late-bloomer, although it was always my dream to practice law. I finally bit the bullet and did so—graduating from Loyola Law School in 1980. Conventional wisdom is that you start at a large firm, get fed up and leave for a small firm so that you’ll have a life. I did the opposite. I started at a small firm and was conscripted by a large firm. I became a partner and stayed for 10 years before opening my own practice. I am a fiduciary, acting as both a Court-appointed Receiver and a statutory Provisional Director of deadlocked corporate boards. As a Receiver, I am in complete control of all assets owned by litigating parties. The idea is that there will be something left to distribute when the litigation is over. As a Provisional Director, I am the swing vote on the Board of Directors, so I’m lobbied by everyone. My practice is stressful and always fascinating!

When and how did you become involved in helping jazz musicians? 

In 2005, I learned how difficult life is for most working musicians and decided that something had to be done.

What was the genesis of your founding the California Jazz Foundation?

I regularly donated to the Jazz Foundation of America, was impressed by what they do, and I thought that I might start a West Coast chapter of that organization. That didn’t work out, but I was hooked on the idea, so I started my own foundation.

What is your proudest moment as the President and Founder of California Jazz Foundation?

Every single time I get a note, email or call from someone we’ve helped. I  can’t tell you how proud I am when I’m able to send that message around to the CJF Board, always with the same accompanying note: “This is why we do what we do.” And then we all cry (or most of us).

When did you first sail on The Jazz Cruise and what has been your experience with the cruise?

It was in 2006. I was at a concert and mentioned to Hanne Johnson that I’d never been on the various jazz cruises and how very sad that makes me. She reached into her purse and pulled out a Jazz Cruise flyer and said “This is as close as you’ll ever get!” I immediately signed up and asked Anita Berry, the founder of The Jazz Cruise, to find me a roommate. The ECP office found me TWO roommates, and Jeannette Roberts has been my Jazz Cruise (and Vail) buddy and a supporter of CJF every year since. And, obviously, I LOVE the cruise, tell everyone about it, and am happy to say that all of our followers feel the same!

Looking down the road what will CJF look like in 5 years? 

We are grooming younger people to get involved so that there will be an orderly transition at the top. We started last year inviting students to our Gala and were so pleased that they ALL offered to volunteer to help our Applicants. This was a very important first step, under the guidance of Richard Ritz, who is also one of our Jazz Cruisers, and our social worker, Amanda Steele.  When we started the Foundation I made it a membership organization and that’s been a godsend, as it provides us with a stable annual base, even though there are many levels of membership so that anyone can afford to join. We now have over 610 active members and a database of well over 2,000.  We’ve expanded into the Coachella Valley and Orange County and are working on the Bay Area and San Diego. We anticipate growing every year, as the consciousness of the jazz community is raised.
If you would like to support the California Jazz Foundation, please visit www.californiajazzfoundation.org for more information. To donate by phone, please call (818)-261-0057. To submit a donation by mail, checks may be mailed to: 

California Jazz Foundation
13205 Cheltenham Drive
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

The California Jazz Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping California jazz musicians who find themselves in a medical or life crisis. Your contribution is greatly appreciated. All donations are tax deductible.
The Smooth Jazz Cruise ‘20:
To Special Guest or Not To Special Guest?
That is The Question!

For years, we presented a “special guest” on The Smooth Jazz Cruise, that being a guest who comes on midway during the cruise, does two shows and disembarks the same day. The list of those performers is illustrious: George Benson, Natalie Cole, Al Jarreau, Brian McKnight, Jeffrey Osborne, Ledisi, Tower of Power, Rufus with Chaka Khan. Even current stars and hosts, Marcus Miller, David Sanborn and Boney James were “special guests” for their first cruises.

Recently, we have shelved that concept. Guests felt that, since the “special guest” did not sail, some of the luster was missing and they preferred that we use that slot to present more Headliners. If you look at past lineups, the number of Headliners increases on cruises where there is no “special guest”. There are just so many slots that we have in main shows and a “special guest” usually does his/her own show, which gobbles up what could be used for four hours of Headliners.

Over the past few months, we have had a smattering of inquiry about having a “special guest” for The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’20. To determine if this is just the whim of a few or represents the prevailing view, we thought it best to ask our fans.

So, let us hear from you on this subject. Write us at info@ecpcruises.com and tell us if you prefer additional Headliners or a “special guest”. And if “special guest” is your choice, give us some names to consider as well. I will save some of you some time… Sade does not like cruises.

We look forward to your responses. After all, The Smooth Jazz Cruise belongs to our guests!
The Jazz Cruise
Blue Note At Sea